Dogs and Love and Death

February 22, 2016

Dear friends have just learned that their beloved young German Shepherd has a probably fatal disease. Their friends share their grief for this beautiful, exceptional animal, though we cannot know the depths of their sorrow; they raised her from being a small puppy, hiked deep into the Sierras with her, romped with her in the snow, watched her in joy at the beach, and exchanged the love only dog lovers know with her every day and night.

This morning I woke up from a dream in which an unknown woman told me “your dog has been hit.” I looked over her shoulder toward a nearby yard and saw my precious small white dog standing but clearly hurt. “Oh no!” I cried out as I woke up. Then I saw my precious one sleeping peacefully on our bed as he does every night; still, the dream said “This won’t last forever.”

In her book of poems about her beloved dogs (“Dog Songs”), Mary Oliver says: “Dogs die so soon. I have my stories of that grief, no doubt many of you do also….We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young. The one gift we cannot give.”

I think dogs are our teachers about love and about death. How to love? Unconditionally, without our ego’s list of requirements. We humans are slow learners, thanks to our egos: “I’ll really love you once you loose/gain those extra pounds, start looking like the girl/guy of my dreams, start making more money, provide me with more status, stop interrupting me, become more/less interested in sex, get your teeth fixed, start agreeing with me on politics/religion/budgeting/parenting, stop starting those arguments which are all your fault,” etc. etc. etc.

Our dog Rudy scans rooms to see who might need a little extra love, and walks over, wags his tail and offers it. He starts every day with play and kisses, and ends every night with cuddles and kisses; now there’s a love model worth following! And in between he never has a bad hair day, never fails to welcome us home as if our return is the greatest thing since the IPhone, is always ready to play, always ready to love, forgives our mistakes instantly, and never holds a grudge.

Even in the best cases, our dogs live relatively short lives; because of that, they offer lessons about death too. They always leave us before we’re ready. Death is coming, and whether we’re 8 or 80, we get closer to it every day. I trust/know there’s incredible beauty on the other side of death, but so far I haven’t been given any information about whether our canine friends will be there.

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the work and life of Philip Toshio Sudo, who wrote wonderful books including Zen Guitar, Zen Sex, and Zen computer. He met and married his true love and lived six “blissful” years in Hawaii with her; they had 3 children. Those kids were 1, 4 and 6 when he died at age 41, a year after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. He was scheduled to have a devastating surgery in New York on 9/11. He died in 2002. His widow says that one of the books he carried with him spoke of how to be resolute about death. In the way of Zen, Phil apparently accepted his fate, grieving mainly for the pain of the wife and children he had to leave….

I don’t know what Phil felt about Sufi poets like Rumi, but this poem except means a lot to me: Rumi says:
“….The human seed goes down into the ground like a bucket
and comes up with some unimagined beauty.
Your mouth closes here, and immediately
opens with a shout of joy

I posted the above on Facebook today, but I wanted to share it with readers of this blog too. I am interested in contacting Phil’s widow, Tracy Buell Sudo. Can you help?

“Dance till you’re broken open” says Rumi.

February 19, 2009

Sometimes, we just don’t know what to do. Tomorrow, a friend faces cancer surgery. On this night, I know she’s feeling afraid–imagining the worst, praying for the best. Her friends and family are gathering around her, and her medical care is the best. I send prayers and blessings to her and to those she loves.

Tomorrow in our country alone, unknown millions face a dangerous surgery or procedure. Soldiers abroad will risk death. Babies will be born. Lovers will revel in their passion. Tired, loving parents will do their best. Some who are quite young will long to be older. Others will silently weep over youth forever lost.

Rumi invites us to love it all. Celebrate our pain and loss. Open to the love that surrounds us. Each event or challenge or joy is a precious thread in the tapestry of your life.

We have baskets of fresh bread upon our heads,

yet we go door to door asking for crusts.

Knock on the inner door, no other!

….We’re like pearls in the shell

on the bottom of the ocean saying

“Where’s the water?”

These mental questionings form the barrier!

Beg for love expansion.

Meditate only on that!

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Passion at Dawn

October 29, 2008

One morning I went to a place beyond dawn,

a source of sweetness that flows and is never less.

I have been shown a beauty beyond immagining….

Rumi often speaks of the great beauty and potential of dawn. If, like me, you were fortunate to begin this day in a passionate embrace with your beloved, please join me in maintaining a state of gratitude for as long as possible. Such grace! How I long to assist as many people as I can to rediscover the passion which is every human being’s birthright; age, health, and agility levels need not be barriers. A sixty-year-old paraplegic can be a wonderful lover.

As a delightful colleague of mine said from her own experience, cancer survivors–including those with scars or bags–can have orgasms too. Heart attack survivors, mood disorder patients, the inexperienced, those who are obese or painfully thin, those with small breasts or penises–in short, all of us, no matter what, have the capacity to enjoy loving touch. It’s built into our cells. Couples who have lost their intimate connection with each other can learn to come back to love and passion.

Please write an anonymous post to this blog if you have questions.

Today, as on many days, I awoke in the state of grace in which I remember to begin my day by silently listing and being thankful for the people and opportunities who bless my life. I wish you that same grace, dear visitor.